Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” is dedicated to mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, a devoted performer of contemporary music who ranks among this series’ most loyal readers. Megan suffered a personal tragedy this weekend, and I humbly extend these words as a gesture of sympathy to her and her family. I am certain I would not have reached the twentieth week of this project without Megan’s encouragement. For Megan’s passionate support of this endeavor, I will always be grateful; and, for her present loss, my heart breaks. - Garrett
On December 16, I announced my plan to listen and briefly record my responses to the music of the composers who follow me on Twitter. This post is the twentieth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Claire Jordan, Erin Rogers, Alan Theisen, Eric Nathan, and Ben Hjiertmann.
Claire Jordan is a composer based in Church Point, Australia. From Claire’s website, I listened to The Origin of Time, for orchestra, and Undercurrent, for fifteen players.
I found myself inextricably enthralled by these works. They possess a scintillating approach to color, a gripping harmonic sense and taught melodic ideas whose sparse materials bear deep, condensed dramatic import. At many moments, I had trouble believing what I heard in these pieces. Claire’s orchestration is both astonishing and thoughtfully designed, as in The Origin of Time where Claire uses spectral techniques to crystallize the work’s intent deep within its structure.
Erin Rogers is a composer and saxophonist based in New York. From Erin’s website, I listened to excerpts of Chronolinea, for voice and ensemble, Duluth, for saxophone quartet, and Quartet, for piano quartet.
The selections from Duluth and Quartet available to me were rather brief (about thirty seconds in length), but, nonetheless, had a lot to share. These segments featured a mostly stable base of abstract harmony or instrumental sound, which was vivified by lively, capricious rhythmic gestures. The considerably longer excerpt of Chronolinea corroborated these qualities and showed off the compelling compositional virtuosity Erin can display with these interests.
Alan Theisen is a saxophonist and composer teaching at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina. From Alan’s website, I listened to Noir Fantasy, for wind ensemble, “Meditazione” from Two Forms of Insomnia, for solo oboe, and Con Tristezza, for tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, and piano.
These pieces display a strong focus on melody. This was particularly the case in Noir Fantasy, which, in addition to being highly stylized and allusive, unfolds in a conventional sense through the development of contrasting melodic ideas. “Meditazione” and Con Tristezza operate more freely, but remain anchored by compelling melodies.
Eric Nathan is a composer and conductor currently based in Rome. From Eric’s website, I listened to Paestum, for chamber orchestra, and Ommaggio a Gesualdo, for two violins, two violas, and cello.
These pieces show Eric’s skillful approach to instrumental color and ensemble writing, as well as an ability to arrive at conventionally beautiful moments in very nuanced, unexpected musical settings. The latter of these traits is best represents in Ommaggio, where the presumed Gesualdo quote seemingly comes from nowhere in the lower strings and its decorated by surprisingly abrasive, yet fleeting, gestures in the violins.
Ben Hjiertmann is a composer and vocalist based in Chicago. From Ben’s website, I listened to Etude, for string quartet and Bicinium, a duo for himself and (“Musical Twitterverse” alum) Luke Gullickson.
To me, Etude is a thrilling and moving work punctuated by a stunning opening cello solo whose luster does not fade when it is recalled and re-scored at the piece’s end. The intervening music is unrelentingly rhythmic and intense to an extent that belies the mostly sterile heritage of the work’s title. Bicinium is similarly raw and stirring, particularly in the way Ben uses his and Luke’s voices.